This recipe and story first appeared in the Feb. 18, 2013 edition of “From Tali’s Kitchen,” my biweekly cooking column in Binah magazine. On newsstands now!
Purim cooking tends to be all about the hamentaschen, but I think it’s more interesting to find ways to incorporate alcohol into cooking and baking. I’m not a drinker (as the story below makes clear), but things like vodka and beer can do wonders to a dish. Like where this is going? Check out my vodka amaretto cake and honey beer bread muffins.
I love Purim. I hate the drinking.
The alcohol part of Purim always seemed like the only blip on the screen of an otherwise perfect day. I’m the type of person who thinks about Purim all year because I can’t stop coming up with themes for costumes and mishloach manot, even at times when other people have Pesach, summer vacation, or back-to-school season on the brain.
My husband and I reach a point – still months away from Purim – when we have too many ideas to remember on our own. This necessitates starting an official Purim Google doc to keep notes on potentially-needed costume items and recipes that would work for specific mishloach manot themes. (As you’ve probably guessed, this is more my thing than his. But he totally plays along.)
Our Purim brainstorming was one of the things that kept my spirits up during those nauseous early months when I was expecting for the first time. If I had thought it was fun to come up with couples costumes for our first two Purims together, it was even better to think of the many adorable ways in which I could dress a family of three. (I’ll tell you what we finally chose in a blog post later this week.)
Purim is such an upbeat, happy time that it was never hard for me to find things to like about it. Except for all that drinking!
While I recognize that many (most?) people are sincere in trying to fulfill ad d’lo yada, that doesn’t make it any easier to watch. I find it uncomfortable and unsettling to see some yeshiva students, neighbors, and community leaders – people I would generally respect and trust – lose their inhibitions, “get silly,” and possibly get sick. And somehow, it passes as acceptable.
Yes, we should be happy on Purim. But who exactly is happy about a drunk guest getting sick in her living room? Who is happy to watch her husband and sons lose control of their normal sensitivities, perhaps in the presence of young children? And does any woman enjoy clearing the remains of the seuda while trying to care for a bunch of sugar-high kids in clown costumes and a husband moaning on the couch?
I suspect that most women whose husbands drink figure they just have to grin and bear it – or if they can’t grin, at least put up with it and get through the day. (Of course, I’m sure there are also women who don’t mind the drinking, or who genuinely enjoy their husbands’ antics. But I’d guess that they’re not in the majority.)
My father never got drunk, on Purim or otherwise, and I’ve never seen my brothers drink, either. As a teen, I hoped that whoever I married would fulfill ad d’lo yada in a way that I wouldn’t find scary. (That wasn’t on the Top Ten list of qualities I wanted in a husband, but it would probably have made Top Twenty!)
And so far, my husband has earned high marks. On both of the Purim days that have passed since our wedding, he became tipsy – and yes, a bit silly – but not in an unsettling way. The most that came of it was a Purim-themed limerick that he wrote and recited on the spot.
I imagine that many men also fit into the oft-cited category of a “Torah drunk” – the person whose lower inhibitions have him saying divrei Torah more freely, not contributing to a toxic atmosphere. I often view things in black and white, and that kind of thinking had me equating any alcohol consumption with a frightening, drunken stupor. I’ve learned, though, that drinking does not necessarily make a drunk, and that downing a glass or two (or three…) of wine does not mean the same thing for every person. As with anything in life, you have to know yourself. And you have to be able to trust that your husband knows himself.
Purim’s take-away message is often described as a lesson in seeing the Yad Hashem even when it isn’t obvious. But for me, Purim has also become a lesson in trusting my husband, recognizing that he knows his limits and will not exceed them.
After all, if the extra wine just means limericks and extra divrei Torah, that’s something I can handle.
If you want to include spirits at your Purim table without worrying about how much your guests are drinking, try serving penne a la vodka, a dairy main dish alternative for a lighter seuda.
In this quick and easy recipe, steaming hot pasta is mixed with a creamy tomato-based sauce that uses vodka as its secret ingredient. Don’t worry, though – the alcohol cooks off while the sauce simmers, leaving only a subtle flavor that deepens the taste of the sauce.
One year ago: Oriental pepper salad
Yield: 4-6 servings
- 2 small onions, finely diced
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 tsp dried basil
- 1 Tbsp olive oil
- 2 Tbsp unsalted butter
- 2 cups (about 500 grams) prepared marinara sauce
- ¾ cup plus 2 Tbsp vodka
- ½ cup heavy cream
- ¼ cup sour cream
- 1 lb. (500 grams) penne pasta
- 1½ cups shredded mozzarella, plus more to top (optional)
- Chopped fresh basil, to garnish
1. Heat the olive oil and butter in a large frying pan and sauté the onion, garlic, and dried basil over low heat until the onion is softened and just starting to brown. Add marinara sauce and cook for 5 minutes.
2. Stir in vodka, heavy cream, and sour cream, and cook for an additional 10 minutes (on low heat the whole time).
3. Meanwhile, cook the pasta for 2 minutes less than the package directions instruct. Drain and return to the pot. Dump the mozzarella over the pasta, pour the sauce over the top, and stir well.
4. Cover and let sit 5-10 minutes, then transfer everything to a serving bowl and top with fresh basil (and additional cheese, if you like). For best results, serve immediately.